Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

LBP with trouble walking

I have been experiencing significant trouble walking this week. If I try to bring my left foot ahead of my right, I get a zapping pain in my L5-S1 area (where I have a ruptured disc with spinal stenosis). Even using a cane, I get these zaps. I fell at work four times on Monday before I figured out that I needed to change my gait. I am also getting numbness in my left thigh.

I am not asking what people think is causing it, but I am wondering if you would ask for a referral to an orthopedist or maybe a neurologist if you were experiencing this. I had a neurologist who did three sets of facet injections on me before I moved back to the U.S. from Canada but I've been relying on my excellent family doctor since early 2012.

Would you be asking for a referral, or would you try to wait it out? I don't have a lot of experience with specialists, so I'm not sure which route would be best.

(see profile for medical details)

I *heart* my TENS unit.


  • It's getting worse today. I am having a hard time walking even with my cane and even with adjusting my gait. It was better in the last five days because I was off work for the holidays and could rest, but now it's angrier than ever.

    I tried getting in to see my family doctor before my next appointment on January 28, but no go. The only appointment they could give me, on January 9, I couldn't do. I think I need her referral to see a specialist, and even so, that will take time to get in there. I can't not work because I need the money and the insurance coverage.

    I just want to cry. I don't know what to do, and I hurt so bad. I don't want pills, I want to fix the structural problem that's causing this. And I'm scared what that is. I already have a bad spinal history.
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
  • ShmooeySShmooey Posts: 89
    edited 12/27/2013 - 1:59 PM
    I know I am talking to myself here, but just in case someone else is having this same situation....

    I went to the ER. The doc said I definitely need another MRI, but it's not an emergency to get it today. He has referred me to an orthopedic surgeon for followup. I got a toradol shot after I refused narcotics, and was given 5 mg of Valium with a prescription for 20 pills of 2 mg each. He was surprised, but respected my stance that I don't want to end up addicted so I don't take narcotics after I had a bad experience with tramadol. I don't have a problem with muscle relaxants or toradol. (and I respect anyone who does and can take narcotics without a problem, I just don't think that's me).

    I am starting to feel better. The inflammation is going down and I can walk more normally, though very slowly. Everyone was really nice about it, and said I did the right thing in coming because of my walking problems and pain. My question about the type of specialist I need is answered.
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
  • I've been reading your post but haven't said anything. I just not much help. I don't know how you are doing it! I would already be crying an begging someone to help me!

    Maybe you find out what's to be done with this doc.

    But I was following your posts. Let me know how it goes. I hope you get some relief soon.
  • Worsening of your condition is a sign that you need to be seen by a board certified spine surgeon, ortho or neuro, not your general practitioner. A GP is okay in the beginning of any of our spine journeys, but they are not that versed in spine conditions and what constitutes a problem .
    Worsening ability to walk, and repeated falls means you need to be evaluated by someone who is familiar with what that meas to your spine .
  • Helen - that's basically what I have been doing! When I went to the ER I was at the end of my rope. It definitely felt like an emergency to me. I'm still sore today but the toradol helped some, and the muscle relaxer is doing its job slowly. I've been on and off the heat pad today as well.

    Sandi, thanks for the link! I was trying to find something like that, but I was searching things like when to go to the ER, and I couldn't nail down the link you provided. I probably could have with a clear head, but I have been desperate for the last couple of weeks. I really appreciate you giving me that. It's probably obvious on the forum to someone who is thinking straight.

    Thanks to both of you for your replies. They are also much appreciated. I didn't know which direction to go next, which is what I was going to ask my family doctor at my next appointment. That feels like eons away though right now. I got a referral to an ortho surgeon by the ER so I have a path started, thank goodness. I just have to wait for Monday to call their office and schedule something.
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
  • With what's going on. We listen an there is always somebody that's going thru something similar.

    So stay in touch!
  • Just wondering on if you were able to get the appointment scheduled with the surgeon? How is the pain and the falling?
    Are things improving at all?
  • ShmooeySShmooey Posts: 89
    edited 12/30/2013 - 11:39 AM
    I see a neurosurgeon on February 28 (I was mistaken, the ER wanted me to see a neurosurgeon). He's in my city at a prominent teaching hospital and I chose him because he heads up the minimally invasive spine surgery group. I work at the university that is affiliated with the hospital. I didn't go to the guy the ER recommended, because he's in a different health system and I know that our uni keeps very current with advances.

    I got my primary care doc appointment moved up to January 8, and she'll order the MRI then. We'll have the report ready by the time the surgeon is ready to see me.

    The pain is as bad as it was went to ER. I fell twice today even though I had my cane and I was babying my back. I have lost bladder control before, so I've been preemptive about it. I go regularly so I don't have to worry about wetting at work. I have sometimes worn incontinence pads (at 43!) because I worry that I'll leak when my back pain gets particularly bad. I also bought a heating pad for work, which helped a bit. I'm off the next two days.

    I had a herniated disc from an injury back in June 2009. But things have been exacerbated since I was a passenger in a car accident on November 7 of this year. We were rear-ended by a driver going between 40 and 45 mph while we were stopped at a light. The force sent us into the car in front of us, and him into the car in front of him. They took me by ambulance to ER then, but the (lame in my opinion) doctor didn't think a lumbar MRI was necessary. He did a cervical CT scan and lumbar x-rays. The x-rays show a retrolisthesis I didn't have before on x-rays that were just done in August. Is that not significant? To me, it is.

    Thanks for asking. :)
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
  • And I would probably be ticked off at doctor! I hate it when somebody minimizes pain they are not feeling!!!
  • ToddtrkTToddtrk Posts: 4
    edited 12/31/2013 - 1:58 PM
    Had my L1-L5 fused April 30th 2013. Was diagnosed with 3 bulging disks, severe stinosis, and compressed nerve roots. Pain was excruciating when I walked, shooting down legs a stabbing, shocking, burning pain... After surgery things were going great. Went back to work in July still in some minor discomfort, but FMLA was up had to return to work. Just after my 6 month follow appointment in which I was told everything looked great on the x-rays. I developed a clicking sound, 3 little clicks in my lower back with every step I take, also now have it when squatting and bending. At first was only weird hearing the clicks, now becoming uncomfortable with some pain. Even had a flair up where I couldn't walk every step with right leg stopped me in my tracks. Took 6 ibuprofen and waited for them to work. Then could finally limp around. Today pain not bad still clicking though. Pain is in lower butt check area going down right leg. Has anyone experienced this clicking sound after fusion surgery?? I'm scared something is wrong do not want surgery again might lose my job!!! Thanks for reading!!
  • the loss of bladder and or bowel control is a big red flag when it comes to the spine. You really need to find a way to get that appointment moved up. I don't want to scare you, but the nerves that innervate your bladder and bowels, as well as the lower half of your body all stem from the lumbar spine. Compression of the nerves in the canal can lead to something called Cauda Equina Syndrome. http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/cauda-equina-syndrome

    The frequent falling, the onset of bladder issues is setting off my alarm bells. It might be worthwhile to call the neurosurgeon's office back and explain to them that you have been falling often, have been experiencing severe episodes of pain, and the loss of bladder control are all things that you need to be concerned about and have evaluated sooner, rather than later. The danger of CES is that the longer the nerves in the canal remain compressed, the more likely that the damage can become permanent.
  • It worries me too. But because it's been happening off and on, rather than consistently, I don't think the doctors take it seriously. I've lost control of mostly bladder, but three times, the other. I don't have a prayer when I walk into a warm building from a very cold outside. I can't control my bladder at all.

    I have alarm bells, but the ER doc didn't listen. He couldn't have labeled me a drug seeker either, I refused narcotics. I would have thought he'd take me more seriously after he saw I wasn't there for drugs. If I need the ER again, I'm going to the university health system instead of where I went.

    I'll see the primary doc and get the MRI order next Thursday. I imagine it won't take long for the MRI to get done. If things go really bad before then I will go back to ER as anyone would, and be more demanding this time. I don't want to end up permanently handicapped because I couldn't get someone to listen. My primary doc is great, but my spine hadn't been acting up too bad before my car accident, and I last saw her a few days after that. Things hadn't progressed to where they are now yet. I know she'll take it very seriously, and will listen. I'm always in there with her for at least 30 minutes because she's always very thorough.

    I really appreciate your post, Sandi. My plan is that if/when the MRI shows something of great concern, to have my doctor intervene with the surgeon and get the appointment moved up. I figure they will listen to her way more than me, who they have never met.

    Hoping all proceeds well. It sucked to open my eyes to the first waking moment of 2014 and the first thought was, "wow, I really hurt today."

    Thanks for your support. It means a lot.
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
  • meaning that certain body positions or activities can widen the canal a bit, resulting in the on and off symptoms.....I know , it happened to me the first time that I developed CES...I have had to contend with it twice now, once at L4-5, now at three levels in the lumbar spine......so just be extremely careful, do not bend, lift or twist if at all possible and if you loose control again of either body function, get thee to the ER and mention Cauda Equina Syndrome to them...
  • ShmooeySShmooey Posts: 89
    edited 01/04/2014 - 7:10 AM
    If I have to return to the ER, I am going to the university health system and not the other one. I am not impressed with the two times I had to go to the other one. The first time the ambulance from the car accident scene took me there, and the second, it was because it was easier for my ride (a co-worker) to take me to that one. Both doctors barely examined me. I was like, is this it? You call this health care?

    My pain was at its worst yesterday and I had to make it through a work day on Advil alone. Today, I did some reading about spinal fusion and took my walker out of the closet to get my mind feeling more comfortable about the idea of surgery. I am not definitely having it, but I know from these symptoms and how fragile my spine feels after injuring the same site a second time...it's a definite strong possibility.

    The resources here about fusions are great. But they don't stop me from being scared. I'm pretty confident my doctor will get me into the neurosurgeon faster than February 28. I have to be ready to discuss things with a clear head and not through a fog of fear. My cat'll like the walker being out anyway, he used to sleep on the seat. lol
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
  • Update

    I see my neurosurgeon next Thursday, January 16. My condition is not improving, and the pain is getting worse each day. I was in tears before I came to work today, partly from frustration at not being able to tie my own shoes, partly because this pain is unrelenting.

    I've tried to resume my physical therapy, but pain is getting my way big time. I don't want to force things so close to the consult. No reason to make things worse, so I just do what I can.

    No way I would have made it to February 28 to see the spine surgeon. I chose a different surgeon (still at the same university hospital) based on personal recommendations from co-workers, and he was able to accommodate me quickly. He does 350 spine surgeries a year, so that tells me I can have a lot of faith in him.

    I'll be shocked if I don't need surgery. In fact, if he says I don't, I will get another opinion to make sure. I'm a mess.
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 01/07/2014 - 12:01 PM
    Anyone facing spine surgery who isn't scared is a fool.......I was terrified , and shook so hard they gave me preop sedation twice and I was still bouncing off the table.......LOL
    The whole idea of someone messing around in our spines, that can cause such damage if not handled properly is enough to scare anyone in their right mind. The thing is, is that each of us has to research and research our conditions, find out what options are out there and ultimately, with our doctors decide if the risks are worth the rewards when contemplating surgery. Surgery isn't done for pain relief, it is done in two situations in the spine- one to correct a mechanical issue- herniated disc, or a neuropathic one where there is danger of permanent damage.
    If you have a surgeon you are comfortable with, that you feel is listening to your concerns and fears, and is doing his/her best to help you get back to some semblence of life as you knew it, and you know that surgery is the only route to get there, then surgery is the right decision.
    It does take some mental fortitude to get around the whole idea of using a walker for a bit, but it is a temporary problem , until you get back on your feet.
    The best advice I can give you, is to go into this situation believing that you are making the right decision for you. And that you will do what needs to be done so that you can have some quality of life back......right now ,it doesn't seem like there is much choice.
  • Excellent advice. Thank you.

    I am so sure there is a mechanical problem causing this pain. I've been through pain with my herniated disc before, but this is affecting everything. It feels like something is slipping in my back when I try to bring that left foot ahead of my right. I keep hoping that each electrical pain isn't the one that will flop me to the floor where I won't be able to get up. I would expect some pain relief from surgery because it would repair the mechanical issue that is wrong, whether it's the herniated disc or the retrolisthesis. I already know about the severe L5-S1 issues and have been fighting with them for the past four and a half years, maybe now it's time for surgery.

    I just want to get better. I've had three sets of facet joint injections that were successful back in 2010/2011 but my back is completely different now. So much weaker and fragile. *sigh*

    thanks for following my thread. it makes me feel a little better. :)
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
  • ShmooeySShmooey Posts: 89
    edited 01/08/2014 - 1:44 PM
    MRI is Sunday, January 12. Another trip into the hot loud tunnel....I'll do anything to get better though. :)

    My primary doc started me on Neurontin, and also gave me some Flexeril. We'll see if those do anything to help. The ER gave me 5 mg of Valium when I was in there, and 2 mg Valium for home. 2 mg doesn't do anything, but I couldn't stay awake on 5. Oh well.

    The neurosurgeon, Dr. S's, assistant is super nice and helpful, which makes me feel good. She's making sure my x-ray films and MRI are there for my visit and has been wonderful to deal with. Hopefully Dr. S will be helpful too... *makes scared face*
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
  • with the MRI. I hope that it gives you the answers you and the surgeon need.
  • Sandi, if you are still reading this...

    How was your cauda equina diagnosed? Was there something on the MRI specifically?

    I had my MRI today, and then an hour later, I lost bladder control again. At the grocery store. Luckily, I have my period so I had a pad on that absorbed 95% of it. (it was gross though)

    This is really scaring me. I can't control those muscles at all when it happens, they just totally relax. I don't get much warning that I need to empty my bladder either. I just get a sudden urge and then I have no control.

    Thursday cannot come soon enough. I pray the surgeon has the answers I need.
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
  • I had a spinal fusion of L4 & L5 in 1981 which went horribly wrong I was left in agony for 2 weeks and eventually had to have one of the screws removed as it had trapped the sciatic nerve, In 1985 i went private and had a spinal decompression and a fat graph to the damaged sciattic nerve and after this op i had never felt so good.
    This lasted for well over 25 years but within the last 2 years I have been experiencing sever spasms and back pain that makes me feel physically sick and my mobility is so poor that i now use a mobility scooter after swearing i wouldnt be seen dead in one of those things.
    My G.P. and the local hospitals are of very little help and all i have been offered is temporary relief with the use of steroid injections.
    At age 61 am i really on the SCRAP HEAP?
  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 01/13/2014 - 7:09 AM
    I first developed it after my first surgery.......and like you, had no control over my bladder or bowels for that matter. I couldn't really empty either one on my own, went days at times not being able to go but then suddenly got hit with the I better find a bathroom NOW- sometimes I made it, most of the time not.....I even stopped leaving my house for awhile because I never knew when things were just going to let go....And the pain levels were off the charts, unlike anything that I had ever experienced before in my life, and never want to experience again.
    The first time for me though was due to complications that my surgeon missed post op, mostly because he failed to even ask or examine me post op. I tried to tell him that instead of a small patch of numbness on my left leg, I now, was numb from the hips down, and couldn't pull my feet up and hold them at the ankles, my inner thighs were numb, so were my buttocks, and I couldn't go to the bathroom....even when I was eventually able to, to this day, I can't empty my bladder or bowels on my own.....the muscles don't recieve the signals that they should..
    The second time and still currently, it occurred again, this time at a higher level, involving three levels in the lumbar spine because of the bmp used during my second salvage operation..
    I said all of this to say and to add to what I have said previously, that I am greatly concerned about the symptoms you are experiencing and really think that you need to see the surgeon as soon as possible. If you call him and tell him the symptoms you are having and the frequency of them, I am sure that he can arrange a STAT MRI.
    And yes, it is readily apparent on my MRI's and CT scans just how compromised my canal is.
  • I had the MRI yesterday morning, and I see the surgeon Thursday at 3 p.m.

    I also just had the worst pain I've experienced yet. I was walking (my own messed up walking) back from the lunch room at work and got a shooting pain while I felt like my spine was going to collapse. I doubled over to avoid falling, and involuntarily cried, it was that severe. Luckily did not lose bladder or bowel control, and didn't throw up my lunch. Neurontin is not touching it. I can barely stand up again now.

    I really should not be at work, but I don't have disability benefits until August, so I am saving my leave for surgery in case I need it. I can't see how I don't.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I know it is an embarrassing thing to admit to incontinence, and to experience it. I'm encouraged that the MRI shows your damage, I was hoping that shows up so the surgeon will be able to see it.

    I am in absolutely agony. 3 1/2 more hours until I can leave. Then two more full days and one six hour day until I leave for the surgeon. I tried listening to my iPod while I was working to try to distract from the pain, but I can't focus on work and that *because* of the pain taking precedence.

    You have helped me so much. ((((((Sandi)))))) virtual hugs for you!
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
  • I understand that not having the time at work but if you continue to try to keep pushing, you may find yourself with no alternative but to not be there. The symptoms that you are describing , if it is what I suspect it might be, are considered a medical emergency and I can not imagine that the surgeon is not going to ask you why you didn't call him while all of this has been happening.
    It is like playing Russian Roulette and hoping that the bullet is in another chamber.......Cauda Equina is not a syndrome to mess with.......the results can be devastating.
  • ShmooeySShmooey Posts: 89
    edited 01/13/2014 - 12:56 PM
    I know. And I'm scared. I suspect cauda equina too, I told the ER doc what was happening and he was nonplussed about the whole thing. he just wanted to get me out of there. The nurses and techs were great, but the doctor was not helpful at all.

    I work at the university where the other hospital system is and I have been e-mailing Dr. S's admin assistant. I've asked her to let me know if there's any cancellation earlier, and told her that I lost bladder control again yesterday. I gave her my history and they have all my radiology results and pictures from August onward, plus my MRI from 2010. The new MRI results should be hitting both doctor's offices tomorrow I'm guessing (my primary care doc who ordered it as well as Dr. S). We'll see if I get a phone call. I was half expecting one today. You know, a "get in here NOW" call because they suspect the same thing we do.

    I want help, and I hope I can find it Thursday. My primary doc is not a spine specialist, so I don't expect her to be one. She did order the MRI quickly. I'm grateful that I have this appointment on Thursday - that other spine specialist I was going to see wouldn't see me until February 28. I would have had to go to a different ER and specifically say, hello, is this cauda equina? I don't want to be permanently disabled!!

    Trust me, I am scared. How do you live with it? Is it something ongoing with you now?
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
  • The problem with getting Cauda Equina diagnosed is that it is supposed to be a 'rare ' condition......and many doctors , if they have heard of it, aren't at all familiar with the symptoms or think that you must have all of the symptoms to in fact be diagnosed with it. Different levels of the lumbar spine innervate different parts of your lower body and torso, so it is possible , depending on the levels effected to have issues with the bowel but not the bladder, or saddle numbness but not necesarily buttocks, and vice versa.
    My first onset was L4-L5....my second effected L2-3, L3-4. and L4-5 again.....so my damage has moved up higher in the dermatomes this time. Since my dura is adhered to the canal now, they can not do surgery until I loose my ability to walk /stand on my own two feet, which will happen eventually. Otherwise I would wind up with a huge dural tear, and the surgery would potentially wind up paralyzing me no matter what.......so I am in a bit of a situation that most do not find themselves in, but the long short answer to your question is, yes.....since the first onset, and the fact that it took so long to find out what was causing my bladder/bowel issues and loosing my ability to stand and walk, it is permanent, so you can see why I am so adamant about you seeing your surgeon as soon as you can possibly make it.
    The other issue is that the office staff, even though they work in a spine surgeon's office aren't necessarily aware of the symptoms of CES and it's urgency.
  • MRI came back. No cauda equina, so we can stop worrying about that.

    The surgeon's PA called me this morning, supposedly to ease my nerves about that. But now I am just clinging to the hope that they will be able to help me with whatever it is that's causing this. He said the MRI showed degenerative changes at L5-S1, I didn't need an MRI to show me that, I knew about that.

    I am terrified it's going to be one of two things - either a brushoff into physical therapy or just a sendoff that they won't help me. I had that once before in Canada. I have been *trying* to do my physical therapy I was given before and I'm in too much pain to do it. And if I get sent off, I don't know what I will do. Pain makes people very irrational.

    My sister said it sounds like he knows more than he told me on the phone. I hope so. He said there will be a team there evaluating everything on Thursday, and there are several options, including a surgical procedure. If they are talking about any form of decompression, YES PLEASE. I can't live like this.

    He said they can send me to a urologist about the incontinence, but I don't want to see one. Let's take care of the back problem first and then see if I am still incontinent. I told him I get a strong back pain and then it happens. It's not just random.

    I'm so scared right now that I am not going to get help...I have been crying at work for the past 45 minutes. :'(
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
  • Positional can be a part of Cauda Equina Syndrome- some positions of your body, standing up straight, leaning over, laying down, arching your spine, all can either widen or narrow the canal, so it can still be CES without it showing up on the images/studies, especially if there is a herniation or narrowing of the canal and then you position yourself somehow to narrow the canal even more...leaning too far forward or back when trying to walk, instead of upright.
    I had to see a urologist too about the incontinence issues as well, went through several tests to see what was causing it and ultimately, the urologist is one of the doctors who confirmed the damage to the nerves for the bladder after the results of those tests.
    I know it's no picnic, but it is still possible for it to be CES, I will wait to see what they tell you tomorrow. Write it all down and ask questions. Ask them how they are sure that it is NOT CES....that would be the answer that I would want to know.
  • Best of luck with your appt tomorrow. Please let us know how it went. I will be praying that the surgeon will have the answers for you that you are looking for.

    Herniation of l5 S1 l4 , DDD , microdisectomy in June 2013 and re herniation in September
    Cervical herniation at C5-7 Jan 2014 with impingement of spinal cord. 2 level cervical fusion Feb. 2014 and 2 level lumbar fusion in April 2014
  • Thank you Amy! I appreciate it! Will definitely post here about the appointment. I don't see a need to start a new thread when I have one here already, unless they decide I need surgery. Then I'll start a thread over there and join the appropriate month's surgical support team.

    Sandi, I will definitely ask about it. The PA told me it wasn't because on the MRI he didn't see anything pushing on the lower nerve. I thought, so does that mean my herniated disc is now all leaked out? I used to have a diffuse disc bulge that herniated. Another question for the doctor.

    My regular doctor's office called and said the MRI showed severe degenerative disc disease, so maybe it's not in my head that I feel like I'm bone-on-bone. Maybe the disc has worn itself out.

    Less than 24 hours, and I'll sleep for 9 of 'em. Tomorrow at this time I will have seen a prominent neurosurgeon and I'm happy about that. Hopefully I'm not in tears over my options though...
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
Sign In or Register to comment.